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Cat5 Wire Choices for Commercial Tower Install

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WA8APB's picture
Cat5 Wire Choices for Commercial Tower Install

We are about to install a MIMO Omni /Rocket node at the 225 foot level of a commercial tower.  Our access to this tower is limited; hence we seek an install that will minimize the need for future on-tower repairs.  We are pondering the best wire to use in this application, and would appreciate any comments or suggestions.  

We used Ubiquiti TC-Carrier wire for prior tower installations.  It appears well made, having both braided and foil shields.  The cable design was obviously optimized for electrostatics.  It performs well on install.  Drip loops were installed, and connections were well sealed with coax seal.   However, we have now documented two instances where water found its way into the cable, causing the cable to drip water at the bottom end.  In both cases, the node consisted of an L-Com HG2415U-PRO antenna, paired with a Ubiquiti Bullet Titanium. 

We are now considering the wisdom of switching to a gel-filled, or flooded Cat5e cable.  This cable is sometimes advertised as "direct bury".  Affordable cables in this category all appear to have a single wrapped foil shield.  We believe the gel-fill would prevent water migration down the inside of the cable. At the same time, the overall ruggedness and electrostatic performance may not be as good as the Ubiquiti TC-Carrier wire.  

Given the design of the Rocket/MIMO Antenna combination, it appears the likelihood of a seal failure at the top end may be less than with that of the L-Com/Bullet combination.  

Any comments on these, or other wire choices, will be appreciated.


Bill Curtice WA8APB

A couple of notes:
A couple of notes:
Unless water backed up inside the cup of the bullet the odds are your leakage is actually further down the run from a slit somewhere in the PVC jacket. Ubiquiti cable is rugged but that jacket isn't that thick in the grand scheme of things, it's not abnormally sized or anything, it's just when we're talking small cables jackets are only made so thick.  Watch out for zip ties, areas where climbers walk, and running while installing.

Dirext Burial cable isn't necessarily intended to be run verticialy, make sure it's UV rated and call the manufacture to see what they say about running it vertically. 250 feet. There are two types of direct burial, flooded(gel filled) and dry powder. Flooded will be very sticky to start and will repel water, but in theory under its weight it could come flowinfnout the bottom termination (especially on a warm day) leaving you a half flooded cable and a gooey mess at the termination point. Dry filled has a similar problem in that moisture could in theory keep migrating down the cable  since you're at an altitude and also flood the bottom, but has less risk of this until the jacket is compromised unlike wet flooded. Both cases make sure to get the vendor to sign off on it. Everything I've ever been told is absolutely do not use flooded cable on a tower run, but I've never tried it personally and never asked the cable vendor about it.
Cat 5 wire choices
We have had the same problem as Bill. in 2 of our 5 tower installations (about 150 feet) we found water running out the bottom of the cable, which ruined things.
Using Ubiquiti Tough cable.  We had to make a slit near the bottom of the cable and let the water drain out into a pail.  We do not now the cause of this; 
perhaps an inadvertent nick during installation. We are now using gel filled cables.

Bob W8ER

K5DLQ's picture
We used armored cat5 on our
We used armored cat5 on our towers...
similar to:
Cat5 Wire Choices for Commercial Tower Install

We use armored (and un-armored) wire from Superior Essex. 

They manufacture a shielded version that is similar in construction to Ubiquity tough cable... a shield and drain wire.  It is not gel filled and the jacket is susceptible to damage by tower climbers.  Price is ~ $400 per 1000 ft.  We use it on monopole installations, where the tower itself provides protection for the cable.

The armored (and gel filled) version is ~ $500 per 1000 ft.  I prefer it on self support towers where cable is exposed to the elements and climbers.  I also have a perception that the armored cable might be a better stray RF elimination choice if the tower has other high powered RF transmitters installed.  Could be a false perception though.  One thing to mention about the armored cable is that is is too large to pass through the plastic covers on Ubiquity gear unless you strip back the outer jacket and copper clad armor.  There is also no drain wire. making it difficult to connect shielded Cat5 connectors.  We have elected to use unshielded connectors at the equipment, ground cable as close as possible to a tower support and ground the shield at one end only (the lightning suppressor).  No equipment damage due to lightning yet, but I can't call it a best practice.  Anyhow, I would elect to use armored/gel filled cable if tower access is difficult.  

Randy - KI4LMR

wa2ise's picture
Another question is if the
Another question is if the POE (assuming the node runs off POE) will deliver enough voltage thru a length of 225 feet.  Or if you need higher voltage to overcome voltage drop, would the node mind the higher voltage when it isn't demanding as much current (may happen upon powerup).
K5DLQ's picture
You certainly want to use a
You certainly want to use a 24VDC PoE, not 12VDC for those long runs.

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